A lot of this has to do with the changes within the past two decades in animal shelters and the pet industry. Volunteers and staff at animal shelters and rescue groups are housing dogs from other parts of the country — and even outside of the U.S.
Laurie McCannon, shelter director of the Northeast Animal Shelter in Salem —one of the largest privately run shelters in the New England — tells NPR the shelter added 13,000 square feet to accommodate newly arrived dogs from a shelter in Texas.
When Northeast Animal Shelter first started in the 1970s, it adopted approximately 300 dogs a year. In 2013, 4,400 dogs were adopted, and more than half of those dogs were from out of state.
McCannon says, “It started out with Puerto Rico, and then we went to a great shelter in Nebraska that we’ve worked with forever. I think at one point we actually dealt with five different shelters in Georgia alone.”
Many shelters look to other states so that they can have a mix of breeds. For instance in New Jersey, near Newark, the shelters are filled with lots of American Pit Bull Terriers. So, in order to have more of a choice, shelter workers network to get an assortment for people who want to adopt.
McCannon tells NPR it’s a different story in many states — especially southern rural areas. “The South still has a lot of work to do with spay-neuter laws, and getting people to feel that pets are more companions and parts of their family than yard dogs or that kind of thing,” she says.
While this is good for a number of animal shelters and rescue groups, many veterinarians and some pet rescuers worry about dog trafficking. The number of dogs that are being transported is unknown. While the U.S. Department of Agriculture doesn’t track the number of transported dogs across state lines or those from other countries, some states do.
Connecticut is one such state. In 2012, they noted that 14,000 animals were transported to the Nutmeg State from other states. “There are Connecticut-origin animals in our brick-and-mortar shelters who wait for homes themselves” says Arnold Goldman, a veterinarian in Connecticut. “And there is something disconcerting about that.”
Massachusetts, Connecticut, and some other states, tightened regulations in recent years, and require that dogs arriving from out-of-state shelters have rabies certificates.
A spokesperson from The National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians tells NPR they haveasked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “to ban the import of dogs from countries where rabies is endemic.”